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Why Our Healthcare System Makes Us Weaker – And GOP Is Making It Worse

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Why Our Healthcare System Makes Us Weaker – And GOP Is Making It Worse

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Mitch McConnell

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sweats to cut deals over his bill to dismantle federal healthcare safety nets, the latest polls are finding that the more people know about its details, the more they’re fearful of its impacts and will blame Republicans.

But when it comes to the nation’s overall health and our insurance-based system’s ability to address those needs, Americans should remember that the U.S. now lags far behind most wealthy nations. Should the Republican bill should it pass and become law, it will only make a bad health care status quo much worse.

McConnell’s bill will turn a nation with plenty of hardship into an even harsher place, as the ill effects of poverty become more visible as access to preventative and ongoing care will be reduced for tens of millions.

“There is no shortage of evidence showing that the Trumpcare bill recently stalled in the Senate is toxic and harmful,” wrote Stephanie Connolly, research director for Social Security Works. “It would cause 22 million Americans to lose their health care over the next decade. Medicaid protections for seniors and people with disabilities, including long-term care, would be threatened. Affordable coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions—including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and even pregnancy—would no longer be guaranteed. Health care plans would no longer be required to cover essential services that can keep preventable conditions from becoming deadlier and costlier. And premiums for low- and middle-income seniors just under the Medicare eligibility age would rise dramatically.”

The downward spiral doesn’t stop there. The lack of access to care “would cause tens of thousands of unnecessary and preventable deaths each year,” she said, before returning to the politics of the moment by noting the healthcare status quo—Obamacare, Medicaid, Medicare, and other federal health safety nets—“has literally saved lives and kept costly conditions from bankrupting households.

That’s true as far as that goes. But the current baseline for the overall health of Americans and responsiveness of the current system is uneven at best. Anyone paying medical bills knows the system favors those who can afford premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Compared to other wealthy countries, the health of Americans is terrible, and our system is a bureaucratic mess and a money pit.

“Senators, the United States is a sick country,” writes Eduardo Porter for the New York Times’ Business Day. Compared to 16 other rich nations, we have “the second highest mortality from non-communicable conditions—like diabetes, heart disease or violence—and the fourth highest from infectious disease. In terms of infant and maternal mortality, Americans are the worst off… And early death is hardly surprising, since Americans lead a pretty sickly life. Teenagers and young adults report higher rates of obesity, chronic illness, sexually transmitted infections, mental illness and injuries than peer countries.”

Porter nails it when he states, “the United States’ higher tolerance of poverty undoubtedly contributes to higher rates of sickness and death.” Like many other health policy experts, he notes that Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid for lower income households has cut death rates from “treatment for things like H.I.V., heart disease, cancer and infections.” Porter said he understands the GOP’s philosophical belief that health is a matter of personal responsibility, not the government’s job, but he notes that Americans are paying a steep societal price for their lousy personal health and expensive healthcare system.

“Yet there is a solid economic argument for protecting your fellow citizens’ access to health care that does not rely on arguments from empathy, charity or the like,” Porter writes. “A sickly, poorly insured population can be expensive.”

A profit-based healthcare system already is expensive, especially when compared to other wealthy nations. The federal government spends about 8.4 percent of the gross domestic product for health care for about half of the country (Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.). In contrast, Great Britain spends 7.7 percent of GDP to cover almost all its citizens. Canada, Italy, Finland—all countries with a single-payer system—spend even less.

As Nicholas Kristof writes on the Times’ editorial page, Americans spend an average of $10,000 a year for health care, compared to $1,680 per person in Poland. He cites the CIA’s World Factbook to note the U.S. is 42nd in longevity and “we’ve had a smaller increase in life expectancy over 25 years than other industrialized countries have.”

Like Porter, he recites statistics about the dismal American status quo, to say nothing of the downward spiral where the Republicans want to take the country.

“Today American babies are one-third more likely to die in their first year of life than Polish children are (and twice as likely as Italian, Portuguese and Czech babies!),” Kristof writes. “Meanwhile, American women are four times as likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth as Polish women… If we had Italy’s child mortality rate, we would save 12,000 American babies’ lives each year—that’s 33 children’s lives saved every day.”

Kristof concludes by saying the only sane solution is for the U.S. to join the rest of the industrialized world and provide health coverage for all—“or else we ration care and people die.”

Rationing care and allowing people to die describes exactly what McConnell seemed set on doing late Thursday; he reportedly was willing to eliminate the healthcare bill’s tax cuts—a boon to the top 2 percent of income earners—and simply dismantle Obamacare and eviscerate Medicaid by cutting future appropriations by more than a third.

In other words, if the Senate majority leader gets his way, an already unhealthy country is going to become sicker, and an already costly system is going to become more expensive. And everything that is currently wrong with our system and making it harder for Americans to lead healthier lives will only get worse.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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14 Comments

  1. Independent1 July 3, 2017

    The problem is that the disastrous healthcare message clearly stated in this article needs to be published in a way that the vast majority of Americans read or hear it. Americans need to be woken up to the fact that the GOP is willing to put the lives of virtually every American at stake in their misguided efforts to make the already wealthy even wealthier.

    What the GOP fails to realize, is that by damaging America’s healthcare systems and the availability of healthcare for more people, they are not only putting the lives of the peons at risk, but also the lives of even the already wealthy – because by making the masses sicker they will be damaging the economy and driving more people into poverty which will translate into them creating an even more violent society: GOP-run states already lead the nation in all forms of violence and drug use by far; and no one, even the already wealthy are necessarily safe in a violent, drug ridden nation.

    Only the outright mentally retarded would believe that living in a nation where murders, muggings, people high on drugs and where other violent crimes are rampant would not put even their own lives at risk no matter how wealthy they are. And the GOP has already created such violent/murderous environments in states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida, South Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and on and on. And it’s not only violent crime, it’s also higher than normal rates of highway fatalities as 24 of the 27 states in America with the highest auto fatality rates/100,000 population are run by the GOP.

    When are moronic right-wingers going to wake up to just how disastrous of a nation they’re working to set up for even themselves to live in?????????

    Reply
  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth July 3, 2017

    It’s a refrain heard so often by those of us who can see beneath the glitz of Trump and the deception of the GOP, that a major crisis has gripped the minds of all in GOP land.
    Whether from something they all drank from a common tainted water cooler, or maybe because the confluence of advancing age, greed, an irascible ethos associated with being a partisan fanatic with Right Wing tendencies, the Conservatives have one goal in mind—a paradoxical one—of destroying the country, and themselves, because of a trance-like state that clouds one’s judgement and straitens their hearts.

    Reply
    1. FireBaron July 4, 2017

      Aaron, these guys have been like this ever since Reagan got elected. They latched on to his campaign and his first year in office and ignored everything else he did – including recognizing “Supply Side” didn’t work and bringing back many of the taxes he cut.
      This was recognized by his former opponent, VP and successor, George H.W. Bush. Bush pere, was the first who called “Supply Side” (aka “Trickle Down”) Economics “Voodoo Economics”. The numbers wouldn’t work, but the anti-taxers bought into it.
      As for Pappy Bush, has H. Ross Perot not run as a spoiler in 1992, it is likely Bill Clinton would not have won the election, and equally likely that Newt Gingrich’s “Republican Revolution” of 1994 would have failed.

  3. Dominick Vila July 3, 2017

    One of the greatest ironies, besides the immorality of affecting the health of 23 million Americans who are getting adequate medical care at affordable prices (subsidized) for the first time in their lives, is the fact that pro-business Republicans oppose Universal Healthcare, an approach that would reduce corporate expenses dramatically, and improve our ability to compete against other industrialized nations whose companies do not have to bear the burden of healthcare benefits for their employees.

    Reply
    1. FireBaron July 4, 2017

      Dom, while the Third-World nations that many US companies have shuffled our manufacturing off to do not have health care, look at our European “allies” (yeah, even the ones that Teflon Donnie has alienated). Every one of them has a national health care system that does take care of their citizens.

      1. Dominick Vila July 4, 2017

        I know. I have close relatives in Sweden, England, France, and Spain and they cannot believe we insist on having the most exclusive and expensive healthcare system in the world. Add to that the impact of our system on our industry, and its ability to compete, and our insistence almost seems suicidal.

        1. dtgraham July 4, 2017

          I took note at the time that GE made a decision last month to close one of their plants located in Waukesha, Wisconsin and move its 300 plus jobs to Canada. GE blamed the move to Canada on the Republican Congress letting the charter expire on the government credit agency that’s used to finance U.S. exports; the export import bank. GE says it relies on that financing to help sell its products abroad. The Trudeau Liberals saw an opportunity and offered GE financing if it would build a factory there.

          That they won’t have to pay for the health care costs of their employees may have also been some factor. I guess the point is, that “socialist healthcare” and the higher individual taxes that their senior people will now pay didn’t discourage them. Neither did the new consumption tax that the corporation will now pay, although their new net corporate tax rate is easily competitive.

          In a mixed economy, government has a role to play at the macro level that the modern GOP wants to abandon. There are a myriad of reasons why capital moves around. Tax and regulatory considerations are only two. The modern Republican party’s position is that this is all that matters. They’ve reduced economics to simplistic cliches, talking points, and bumper sticker slogans.

          1. Dominick Vila July 5, 2017

            Especially in a consumer oriented economy such as ours, where pricing is key. The same goes for our ability to compete on the world stage against other industrialized nations that do not incur the healthcare burden ours have to bear.

  4. Thoughtopsy July 3, 2017

    Republicans only care about babies if abortion is the risk. Then there no hoop they won’t jump through to legislate what women can and can’t do with their bodies.

    Since they care SO MUCH about the unborn…. the really stupid thing is that they WON’T increase Sex Education, expand Planned Parenthood health services, and increase access to contraception… all of which have been absolutely proven to drop the abortion rate far more than laws against it… because that would be WRONG… and logical, and sensible… and save thousands of children every year that laws against abortion will not.

    So when you hear that 12,000 American babies are dying every year due to lack of social spending, and the increase in poverty brought on by plutocratic wealth transfer leading to America being worse than the third world when it comes to infant and mother mortality… then:
    a. You’re not surprised.
    b. You realise that this figure can just be added to the death toll brought on by evangelical puritanical Republicans blocking the things that actually reduce abortions.

    You see… abortion is evil… because it kills babies.
    But blocking all the things that end up killing far more babies… like contraception, sex ed, PP, and social spending on proper healthcare… well that’s just totally “Christian”.
    Because, ya know… ya can’t have tax breaks without the blood of America’s children on your hands… it’s just the price you pay for wealth transfer, cruel meritocracy, and idiotic myths about the sins of the poor…

    “Pro Life”… Ha!. Don’t make me puke.

    Reply
    1. FireBaron July 4, 2017

      The only time the GOP demonstrates their “pro-life” is in the delivery room. That makes them “pro-birth”, not “pro-life”. They would deny prenatal care, they would deny neonatal care, they deny nutrition programs or any thing else that would improve the health of mother and child, whether unborn or born.
      They believe that “abstinence only” should be the only method of contraception taught in schools – even when it has been proven that “abstinence only” schools have the highest rates of teen pregnancies.

      And the final irony – just about every one of those mooks who claim they are pro-life also believe in the Death Penalty and feel it should be administered to the mentally ill, children as young as 12, people with coerced confessions – even when the evidence disproves their confession, and anyone who cannot afford a real lawyer.
      The 52 members of the GOP caucus in the Senate will become the Death Panel that Sarah Palin warned us about in her anti-Obama screeching should McConnell’s bill come to fruition. There is one bright side to it. Based on CBO numbers, there will be only 1,000,000 fewer people denied health insurance than under the House plan. So it is a bit more compassionate than Ryan’s Ayn Randian proposal.
      Oh, as a reminder, the aforementioned libertarian author definitely enjoyed the benefits she and her husband were eligible for under Medicare. But that’s one of the inconvenient truths the GOP wants you to ignore.

  5. catman July 4, 2017

    The Repubs are not about fixing health care. It is all about getting at Obama and what he tried to do for the poor people. The people who will be hurt by what they are doing are the ones who voted for Trump.

    Reply
  6. midway54 July 4, 2017

    In view of the history over the decades in which the plutocrats have through propagandists incessantly sent the thoughtless rubes into a frenzy against “them socialist labor unions and bleedin’ heart libruls” behind the safety net litigation, it is difficult not to conclude that the utopian dream of the plutocrats is to require all citizens to see themselves as liberty loving Americans who “don’t need no stinkin’ un-American big gummint” and to exercise their freedom to fend for themselves in all circumstances. Having been thoroughly duped, off they go dependably and enthusiastically to vote for the scoundrels in the Plutocratic Party who will as vassals see to the comfort and political objectives of their donor plutocrats. The political agenda of the Plutocratic Party deserves the title Operation Phornicate.

    Reply

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